I and others in our late 50s and up are members of the last generation of children to grow up under the “Jim Crow” legal system that required EVERY white person to discriminate against EVERY black person, whether or not they were racist. This extreme inequality left a residue that caused us not to immediately “see” another person, but to first see what we thought the other person’s race represented. We could see people from different races doing the same thing and think two very different thoughts about them.
We are the children whose relatives were lynched or shot and we are also the children whose parents did the lynchings and shootings. We are the children harassed while integrating white schools and we are also the children who did the harassing or whose parents funded lawyers to maintain an inferior education for some. We are the children whose parents’ livelihood and reputation were destroyed via the media and we are also the children whose parents wrote and spoke to move the masses to hate in order to achieve personal agendas. We are the children of almost a whole state of black parents who lost their right to vote in a single year and we are the children who as adults have applied their parents’ tactics into gutting the Voting Rights Act this year. We are the children who feared the fiery cross and we are also the children who stood hand in hand with our fathers encircling the cross. We are the children who may have never gone to school with anyone of the opposite race. Now we work side by side and we (and those we mentor) teach and supervise and make employment decisions, we are jurors and judges, and we set policy and political agendas. After all, we are of the age to be in charge, to set direction for others, but for many, our childhood Jim Crow foundation still frames our world view because we failed to challenge (or even acknowledge) what Jim Crow taught all of us and what has become a part of our automatic response system.
WE CAN’T SOLVE WHAT WE ARE UNWILLING TO ACKNOWLEDGE OR CONFRONT.